I’ve started messing about with my home-made oil can banjo, which here-to-for I will simply refer to as The Can. Although I’m convinced it will be easier when I’ve grown my nails out a bit more, I’m starting (and I mean just starting) to be able to strike the string I want to strike. When I hear how clearly some players can enunciate their notes with the clawhammer approach, I realize I have a lot of practice ahead of me. The can has a short-scale neck which really means it likes to be tuned in an open A instead of G, and that’s fine by me. I see there are other tunings some people use in general and on specific tunes, like sawmill tuning (whatever the hell that is) and double C tuning. I’ll just ignore that for now and start with an open A tuning and work on building some skills. I’ve been looking at a bunch of tabs (it seems regular notes aren’t good enough for banjo pickers so they use tabs) and listening to accompanying clips and trying to play bits and pieces. As I familiarize myself with the fretboard and begin to get used to the various pull-offs and hammer-ons and slides that characterize old-time banjo music, I’ll try to focus on a song or two. One of the things I want to do eventually is incorporate slide into the whole business and to that end I have an 11/16th socket that fits nicely on my chunky baby finger.
On YouTube, there must be hundreds of guys out there all hustling lessons and tabs and dvds and whatnot, including all kinds of free stuff. Even with my limited exposure to this material, it’s clear that some is much much better or at least more useful than others. Imagine, people learned to play music for thousands of years without YouTube. In the longer run, its biggest value to me will be the opportunity to see scads of players in action.
I will try to avoid growing a bushy white beard and developing a taste for corn liquor along the way, but anything can happen.